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Full text of "Two on a tour"

"ERSIJy OF GUEIPH LIBRARY 



3 llflfl OlOBbbST S 



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Kbo I KU 

DA S66.M98 1910 

Mur se 1 1 , Wa 1 1 er Ar no 1 d 

Two on a tour 



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Date due 



































































































































TWO ON A TOUR 



' TWO ON A TOUR " 



BY 



WALTER A. MURSELL 



" Give the face of earth around, 
And the road before me." 

— R. L. Stevenson, 



Seconfc Edition 



PAISLEY: ALEXANDER GARDNER 

$ nbltaher bg S^woixdmtxd to the late Queen VUtori* 



LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT & 00., LTD. 



PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY ALEXANDER GARDNER, LTD., PAISLEY 

THE LIBRARY 
UNIVERSITY OF GUEIPH 



To 

The Friend of Years and the 
Comrade of Many Journeys 



CONTENTS 



Prologue 


PAGE 

9 


The Tryst 


21 


The Glorious Twelfth 


29 


Over the Grampians ... 


41 


The Place of Mystery 


51 


The Highland Capital 


6l 


Garve ... 


69 


Loch Maree 


77 


Gairloch 


85 


The Last Day ... 


95 


Epilogue 


103 



PROLOGUE 

" The quarrel is a very pretty quarrel as it stands ; we should 
only spoil it by trying to explain it." 

— Sheridan: "The Rivals." 



A SPRING MORNING IN ARC AD Y 

There's a wind among the tree-tops, 

There's a breeze upon the sea, 
And the cuckoo's voice is floating from the coppice on the hill; 

There's a sound of falling waters 

Where the streams are running free, 
And the mavis pipes a merry tune that sets the heart a-thrill; 

'tis sweet to be a Rover when it's Spring in Arcady! 

I watch the soft clouds moving 
Across the open sky, 
And the white gulls dip and skim above the waters of the bay; 
I see the sunlight on the sail 
That slowly passes by, 

1 hear the children's voices call upon the shore at play; 
'tis joy to feel the Springtime in the Heart of Arcady! 

The primrose blooms upon the bank, 

The woods are rich with green, 
The air is filled with pleasant scents from fir-tree and from pine; 

A healing rest steals o'er the mind 

Where the strife of thought has been,, ** 
And the better side of Life begins to warm the heart Like wine; 
For who can think but hopefully when it's Spring in Arcady! 

I walk beside the sunlit sea 

With the friend of many years, 
And the lass I love is with me, who has made my life a song; 

We roam the woods together 

And throw aside our cares, 
With talk and play and merry jest we speed the hours along; 
O 'tis good to be a Lover when it's Spring in Arcady! 



PROLOGUE 

Yes, it was on a spring morning in Arcady that the 
Tour was hatched. Of course we had talked of it 
before, but our plans came to a head here. It was 
fitting that such an expedition should be arranged 
in so idyllic a spot. Our wives and families all 
flattered themselves that they had a hand in 
it. Minnehaha seriously warned Christopherson 
against riding down dangerous hills. Scheherezade 
— careful soul ! — was solicitous about our diet, and 
besought us not to exceed forty miles a day. Our 
children regarded us with mingled wonder and 
pity and amusement, as two elderly and plethoric 
persons who were desperately determined upon a 
trip to the ends of the earth. My youngest 
signalised the occasion by coming straight up from 
the sea and sitting down damp upon a considerable 
portion of our large scale-map, thus making the 
county of Inverness more mountainous than ever 
by reason of the bulbous blisters raised through the 
application of his moist person. Christopherson 
and I both made solemn promises, seeing that we 



14 TWO ON A TOUR 

were so beloved of our wives, and our lives were 
of such exceeding value to the community; and 
we vowed to take the tenderest care of one another 
while upon our travels. 

We have had several tours together, and many 
episodes arise in my mind as I recall them. There 
is only one I shall mention here, for the conse- 
quences of it might have been such that all 
subsequent intercourse between us might have 
abruptly concluded, and this chronicle would never 
have been written. Scheherezade reminded us of 
the incident as we now sat on the green lawn, 
discussing our route to the accompaniment of a 
hundred thrushes' and blackbirds' songs. The 
episode was so unique in our experience that I 
shall set it down at length. I 'find in my diary for 

19 , under Friday, August 9th, " Rode to 

Torrington, 44 miles." The record is bare, but it 
enshrines one of the rarest days. It is memorable 
if only for the fact that Christopherson and I very 
nearly — but I am anticipating. We had ridden the 
previous day from Sidmouth to Exeter, and had 
passed a night of horrors in a house that dated 
from the Middle Ages. The weather was sultry, 
and Exeter was stifling. The air seemed ex- 
hausted, and made breathing difficult and walking 
a torture. It was one of those days when you get 
a feeling of impending disaster. Having left our 



PROLOGUE 1 5 

bicycles in the yard, we rested till nightfall, and 
then sallied forth for a stroll before turning in. 
The night was black and the air oppressive. We 
walked down by the canal. The lamps cast a 
sinister light upon the oily surface of the water; 
a mist hung like a curtain a few feet above it; a 
few ghostly figures flitted in and out of the mist on 
the banks. There was a muffled sound of oars 
somewhere in the drifting fog, and presently we 
came to a ferry. In the strange dim light the 
canal looked like the Styx, and the ferryman might 
have been Charon, and the passengers a group of 
shades. We were rowed across. We walked a 
mile down the other side ; but the vault above us 
was so dark, the water below us was so mysterious, 
the air was so suffocating, the houses were so grim 
and menacing that we retraced our steps to our 
lodging, called for our candles, and went to bed. 

And now our horrors began. The house was 
very old. The way into our bedroom was down a 
dark flight of steps like a descent into a well. 
Every board creaked. Mice scuttled about behind 
the walls. There was an oppressive smell, like a 
family vault. The window was wide open, but not 
a breath of air came in. The room was hot, 
stifling. The furniture was worm-riddled. The 
curtains and bed-hangings were moth-eaten. The 
candles threw weird shadows on walls and ceiling. 



1 6 TWO ON A TOUR 

V I am sure something has happened in this 
room/* said Christopherson, " murder, or suicide, 
or something horrible." 

The same thought was in my mind. We went to 
bed, but not to sleep. Tossing, rolling, moaning, 
fitfully dozing, waking with a start listening to 
queer sounds — it was a nightmare of a business. 
We were men of few words next morning. The 
place had infected us with its black melancholy. 
I never rose in gloomier spirits ; I never set out on 
a day's ride with heavier forebodings. We left 
Exeter behind us, but it was not until we had been 
on the road a good two hours that our hearts began 
to beat and expand more freely and to lose their 
weight of depression. But then the air of Dart- 
moor began to fan our faces, and it was like the 
wine of the gods. Dartmoor is like nothing but 
itself. It rolls away in vast billows to the horizon. 
Its vital air breathes forth scents that fill the whole 
of space. The good red earth of Devon shows on 
its winding roads. But its colours — that is where 
the magic of Dartmoor lies. I never saw such a 
depth of purple as on its hills and in its distances. 
Again and again we stopped to look back at 
that extraordinary purple robe thrown about the 
shoulders of the huge Tors. Presently we came to 
Okehampton, and here we walked up on to the 
moor itself, and saw a great military camp 



PROLOGUE 17 

speckling one of the hollows. Huge waggons and 
gun carriages were rumbling down the rough 
moorland roads. On the far heights bright flashes 
could be seen at intervals, and then a deep roar 
prolonged into solemn reverberations. The 
gunners were practising their deadly trade. 
Leaving Okehampton we still skirted the vast 
moor. At last, towards the end of the day, the 
road made a sudden descent into a deep valley, 
through which a river ran shining. A stone bridge 
crossed the river; at the other side a long, steep 
climb awaited us; then at the top — Torrington. 

And then — it happened ! It may have been the 
lingering effect of the Exeter bedroom; it may 
have been that the death-dealing instruments we 
had watched on the heights at Okehampton had 
depressed us; it may have been that the indescrib- 
able melancholy of the moor had entered into our 
souls ; it may have been that we were simply tired 
out with the heavy riding; the fact remains that 
when we dismounted in front of a promising- 
looking inn our tempers were of the shortest and 
snappiest. It has always fallen to my lot on these 
tours to negotiate with all landlords and land- 
ladies; Christopherson has always flatly refused, 
and I, with a meekness which I begin to think is 
my worst enemy, give way before him. But on this 
occasion I intended Christopherson to take his 



1 8 TWO ON A TOUR 

turn. We stood outside the inn in the gathering 
dusk and wiped the perspiration from our dripping 
brows. 

" Now, then," said I, briskly, " in you go and 
see what you can do." 

" No," said Christopherson, " you go." 

" No," said I, " it's your turn this time." 

11 Nonsense; get along in and make inquiries," 
said Christopherson. 

" I'm not going in," said I ; " you are going in." 

14 I won't ! " said Christopherson. 

" Neither will I ! " 

Our voices during this brief passage-of-arms 
had been strained and distant. We leaned on our 
bicycles and glared at each other in a mixture of 
fierceness, contempt, and defiance. Christopherson 
has an awful eye when his blood is up ; it burned 
upon me now with the intensity of a pharos. When 
I saw that eye I knew in my heart it was all over, 
but I determined to make one more valiant effort. 

11 Let go of your bike," I said, in the kind of 
tone one hears in South- side melodrama, "I'm 
going to hold it while you go in." 

" I will not let go of my bike," said Christo- 
pherson, standing doggedly in the middle of the 
road, " and I am going to hold yours while you 
go in." 

" Then we shall sleep in the street," said I. 



PROLOGUE 19 

Christopherson said no more, but remained im- 
movable like Horatius keeping the bridge. I went 
in; I could do no other. But we ate our supper in 
silence, and it was not until "John Cotton " rose 
in fragrant wreaths from our respective briars 
that the ice in our bosoms melted and our frozen 
intercourse broke loose in the genial warmth of 
a common delight. 

" I ought to have gone in," said Christopherson 
now, when Scheherezade reminded him of this 
bygone estrangement. 

M Good man! " I cried. " It is a belated con- 
fession, but I here give thee absolution." 

"Always the best of friends, ain't us, Pip?" said 
Christopherson, who is a lover of Dickens. 

And I responded, " Wot larks ! " 

Before we separated, the tour was settled for the 
following year. 



THE TRYST 

11 We met — 'twas in a crowd." 
—T. H. Bayly. 

" An agreeable companion on a journey is as good as a 
carriage." — Publius Syrus. 



THE TRYST 

** The bicycle was made for man, not man for the bicycle." 

THIS pearl of wisdom fell from Christopherson's 
lips as he stepped from the train on to the platform 
of Waverley Station, Edinburgh, and grasped my 
hand. To a stranger the remark would have 
savoured of mystery, not to say insanity. As a 
greeting it seemed inappropriate, and as the 
beginning of talk between two men who had not 
met for six months, it appeared to lack coherence. 
But a twenty years' friendship needs no interpreter. 
We have an inveterate habit — Christopherson and 
I — of resuming the conversation of a year ago as if 
no space of time had intervened; when we meet 
after a year's absence we take up the thread with 
perfect naturalness at the point where it was 
previously dropped. Indeed, the thread has never 
really been dropped at all. It stretches invisibly 
through time and space, and though we often 
separate, we are never really severed. There is 
nothing else in the whole wide world quite like this 
wireless telegraphy of an intimate friendship. It 
has in it a suggestion of immortality. 



24 TWO ON A TOUR 

As Christopherson dragged his bicycle from the 
van I nodded my head in solemn approval of his 
sententious utterance. " Epigram — proverb — 
trope," said I, taking out an imaginary note-book 
and pencil, " my tables — meet it is I set it down! " 
I had come over on my own machine to meet 
Christopherson, and we compared our steeds with 
satisfaction. We had resolved upon a week's tour, 
and this was the try sting-place. As we looked over 
our wheels with pride and affection, the happy 
memories of a score of rides rose up to greet us. 
Had our wheels been horses they would have 
pawed the earth impatiently, champed their bits, 
tossed their flowing manes, and snorted with 
feverish anticipation. The Spirit of the Road 
possessed us both as we climbed into our saddles. 
When that most blessed Spirit enters into a man 
he takes a new lease and a new grasp of life. He 
has closed his books, laid down his pen, shut his 
study or his office door, donned his holiday garb, 
and for the next few days he sees things in a golden 
haze of mystery and romance. The Road opens 
out before him, luring and beckoning; every hill- 
top is an apocalypse, every turning a surprise. 
Once in the saddle, and the day is a continuous 
adventure. Anything might happen. At such a 
moment I have an unquenchable contempt for the 
assertion that the age of miracles is past ; I know 



THE TRYST 25 

it is just about to begin. He who is thoroughly 
possessed by the Spirit of the Road can no longer 
talk of his bicycle as a machine ; it is a dragon, an' 
albatross, a wind, a chariot of fire — anything that 
signifies life, vigour, movement, mystery. To talk 
of cranks, ball-bearings, pedals, tyres, brakes, 
is blasphemy. Even a puncture cannot wholly 
banish the poetry of the expedition. A head wind 
is much more likely to reduce it to solid prose But 
as Christopherson observes, " The bicycle was 
made for man, not man for the bicycle/' and that 
makes all the difference. The Spirit of the Road 
does not own slaves; he creates free men. So if 
we puncture we may groan, but we groan cheer- 
fully; if we encounter a head wind we may feel 
aggrieved, but it soon settles into an uproarious 
resignation; if we have to get off and walk a two- 
mile hill, we do it as part of the day's adventures 
and foot it stoutly up the steep. To some people 
this may seem a preposterous and even an im- 
possible frame of mind ; but they do not know the 
Spirit of the Road, they only know the Demon of 
Emulation. They want to break a record; they 
want to do a certain distance in a certain time; 
they have some ulterior motive that weighs upon 
them like impending fate; they have some other 
man's performances in their mind's eye, and they 
must reach a particular spot by the fraction of a 



26 TWO ON A TOUR 

minute. In their case, man is made for the bicycle, 
and it becomes an obsession. As for us, we did not 
set out to break records, but merely to enjoy our- 
selves. We wanted to be in the open air, to feel 
the warm sun on our faces, to see the blue sky, the 
floating clouds, the green of the meadows, the 
yellowing corn, the strength of the hills. We did 
not travel for the sake of the arrival but for the 
sake of the travelling. It is the continuous going 
that makes the chief delight of a tour. 

We left Waverley behind us, turned out of 
Princes Street, and made for the Ferry at Granton. 
I dislike riding in towns; the stone " setts " jar 
one's whole body, and the traffic daunts one. The 
Spirit of the Road cannot be invoked under the 
shadow of tall tenements or in the crush of many 
vehicles ; he must be supplicated at the altar of a 
milestone where trees and hedges are green. A 
breeze was blowing from the Kingdom of Fife, and 
the waters of the Forth were blue and sparkling. 
The distances were clear, and Edinburgh began to 
look like a fairy city as the Ferry drew out across 
the Firth. The Forth Bridge seemed like some 
wondrous web spun across from shore to shore. As 
we watched, a train, small as a toy in the distance, 
threaded its way through that forest of steel. It is 
five miles across the Forth from Granton to Burnt- 
island, but so clear was the air that it looked more 



THE TRYST 27 

like two. We reached Burntisland about half -past 
four, and began our ride at once on the Fifeshire 
side. The harbour at Burntisland was full of 
foreign ships — German, French, Norwegian, 
Swedish, Dutch — all come for coal. A number of 
boys were fishing in the harbour for mackerel with 
very primitive rods. A shoal had just gone in from 
the Firth, and we could see the silver of their scales 
breaking the surface of the water into diamonds 
in the shine of the sun. We went up the long hill 
leading over towards Kinross, and began our 
journey through the pleasant pastoral country that 
spread out before us like a map. A few small, 
smoky, and dirty towns lay black upon our route — 
Cowdenbeath, Kelty, Blairadam — blots upon the 
face of an otherwise fair landscape. By and by 
Loch Leven came in sight, and the evening sun 
changed the grey walls of Queen Mary's castle to 
gold. Some half-dozen boats were dotted about 
the Loch containing enthusiastic fishers, which 
reminds me — but I can't go into that just now. 
It was seven o'clock when we reached our destina- 
tion on the slopes of the Ochils after passing 
through the quiet town of Milnathort, and we did 
justice to a good supper. Our tour was to begin in 
earnest next day, and we ascended the hill after 
supper as the sun was setting, and walked on the 
open moor. The sky was clear, the distant moun- 



28 TWO ON A TOUR 

tains were not too distinct, the sunset was golden 
and ruddy — everything pointed to a spell of fair 
weather. The stars were beginning to peep 
through a deep purple heaven as we wended our 
way homewards, and we slept that night with the 
sweet scent of the pines coming through the open 
window and mingling with our dreams. 



THE GLORIOUS TWELFTH 

" The world is a wheel." — Disraeli: " Endymion." 
"Nay, come; let's go together." — Shakespeare: "Hamlet." 



THE GLORIOUS TWELFTH 

THE morning of August the Twelfth broke with a 
grey sky, and it remained grey all day. But it was 
dry, and there was no wind, which, from a cycling 
point of view, was a substantial comfort. We could 
hear the shots of early sportsmen coming faintly 
from the distant moors as we prepared our steeds 
for the road. Our first disaster took place before 
we had started. I had blown up my tyres like 
drums on the previous evening, but now the back 
one was as flat as a pancake. Clearly a puncture. 
On examination it proved to be worse. I took it to 
Milnathort to get it "sorted," and the only possible 
repair was a new tube. This delayed out start, and 
we did not leave Milnathort till 11.30. By the 
way, the word which has most impressed me, as 
an Englishman living in Scotland, is that word 
"sort." Its impressiveness lies in its extraordinary 
adaptability. In England the word is used, but 
with a very limited scope; it is used most 
frequently, indeed almost solely, to describe the 
separation of things which have got mixed up ; as, 
for example, when a man speaks of " sorting " his 



32 TWO ON A TOUR 

letters, meaning putting them into order. But here 
in Scotland the word is endowed with a positively 
miraculous ubiquity and agility. If you mend a 
broken teacup you " sort " it; if you put a bit of 
sticking-plaster on a cut finger you " sort M it; if 
you go to the dentist it is to get your teeth 
"sorted "; if you sew a rent in your breeks you 
" sort " them; if a lady " does " her back hair she 
" sorts " it; if a machine gets out of gear it must 
be " sorted "; if your own inside gets out of gear 
it too must be " sorted " ; and if you wish to convey 
the idea of appalling nemesis you exclaim, " I'll 
sort you ! " I know of no one word in England 
which can perform these miracles. It is the most 
nimble and versatile term I ever heard of. Custom 
cannot stale its infinite variety. — But I digress. 

We took the road to Perth, a fine smooth 
thoroughfare bordered with hedges, and with fields 
on either side. Christopherson was bursting with 
pride over a Sturmey-Archer three-speed gear with 
which his machine had been recently fitted, and for 
some distance his remarks exhaled an offensive 
superiority. My own is a two-speed gear, and 
Christopherson was inclined to commiseration. 
But then it is a " Sunbeam/' and that is the height 
of cycling luxury. As we came through Glen Farg 
the road descended gradually, and a mile of 
glorious free-wheeling took us out into beautiful 



THE GLORIOUS TWELFTH 33 

open country full of ripening corn. It was in this 
enchanted ground that we were suddenly brought 
face to face with the difficulties of the Scottish 
accent. A man on a bicycle had rapidly over- 
hauled us, and dismounting from his machine he 
accosted us as we were standing to admire the 
view. He looked like a superior kind of labourer 
or mechanic. 

Bending a pair of honest blue eyes upon 
Christopherson, he said in rapid staccato, " Have 
ye got anallcon?" 

I have spelt the word exactly as it sounded, and 
I was uncertain whether it was an article of 
clothing or something to eat. 

Christopherson gazed at him in return, and 
ventured no reply. I have seldom seen him look 
more dumb foundered. 

The man repeated his request, and Christo- 
pherson turned a bewildered eye in my direction. 

" Anallcon! Anallcon!'' exclaimed the man, 
beginning to get a little excited. 

Suddenly a light broke upon me, and I said, with 
careful enunciation, " Is it an oil can you want?" 

4 'Ay, ay, jist that — anallcon! " replied our friend, 
in evident relief. 

I lent him mine, and while he lubricated his 
wheels Christopherson wiped the moisture of 
embarrassment from his brow. 



34 TWO ON A TOUR 

" Why on earth did he pronounce it all as one 
word?" he asked, when the man was gone. 

" It's merely a way some people have in 
Scotland/' said I ; " custom of the country. 
Clipping one's syllables saves a lot of time, and 
mangling the King's English comes easy. Thrift, 
thrift, Horatio, even in speech." 

It has been my lot of late to listen to some rather 
stinging and contemptuous diatribes against the 
horrors of the Scottish accent. I am not concerned 
(and I told Christopherson so with some warmth) 
to uphold the numerous vagaries of pronunciation 
and tricks of emphasis and erratic tones char- 
acteristic of the Scot, some of which are entirely 
indefensible; but I would humbly submit that his 
accent is not more open to objection than that 
belonging to some other parts of the United 
Kingdom. There are accents and accents. Of 
the Glasgow accent and dialect it is unbecoming 
to speak: it is the tongue neither of men nor of 
angels. But there are some Scottish accents which 
are as welcome to the ear as the music of a 
mountain stream or a woodland burn, especially 
when uttered by the lips of one of Caledonia's 
" bonnie lassies, O ! " 

I do not understand the prejudice of the average 
Southerner against the accent of the North; it is 
such a flagrant illustration of detecting the mote in 



THE GLORIOUS TWELFTH 35 

our brother's eye while insensible to the beam in 
our own. It argues an insular and unsympathetic 
mind. I am always alert for the peculiarities of 
language and pronunciation; there are few more 
interesting studies. I have lived in various parts 
of these Islands, and although a Londoner born 
and bred — and mighty proud of the circumstance — 
I cannot disguise from myself the fact that the 
accent of the Cockney is the most vulgar and 
barbarous under the sun. The conscious drawl, 
the clipping and mangling of syllables, the total 
obliviousness to the music of expression, the ex- 
traordinary gymnastics performed by the aspirate, 
the nasal twang — these are but a few of the 
characteristics of the Metropolitan lingo. In the 
Midlands there is not so much peculiarity of accent 
as of phraseology, as when a man informs you that 
he " enjoys very bad health,' ' or informs you that 
yesterday he " done " something rather smart in 
the way of business. The Devonian has a dialect 
all his own, not by any means devoid of quaint 
beauty. In Lancashire and Yorkshire there is an 
approach to savagery in some of the dialects, so 
startlingly primitive and rude is the utterance. In 
conversation with some of the less educated 
classes, one almost needs to refer to a glossary. 
No, I don't think the Scot has any reason to be 
ashamed of his native accent as a whole. His 



36 TWO ON A TOUR 

attention to the aspirate and his devotion to the 
letter " R " are matters entirely to be commended. 

On this wise did I discourse to Christopherson, 
the episode of the oil-can affording us matters of 
converse for several miles. 

We reached Perth about two o'clock, and the 
Fair City looked very lovely as we came down upon 
it over the hill and rode slowly through its avenues 
of splendid trees. We took our way to the Inches — 
beautiful green meadows bordering the River Tay, 
Here we lay on the bank of the rapidly- running 
river, and had a famous lunch off sandwiches and 
fruit. 

Christopherson began to grow envious of the 
folk who lived in those quiet houses across the 
river, whose smoothly shaven lawns swept down to 
the water's edge, where snug little boat-houses 
nestled under the shadow of the trees. Indeed, we 
scarcely saw a pretty cottage or a secluded garden 
anywhere without a longing for the country, and 
we discussed the possibilities of a tramp's life, and 
whether we might not with advantage exchange 
our present sedentary callings for the open road. 
In these reflective and expansive moments, we are 
always teeming with honest projects, and we have 
not quite yet made up our minds whether a market 
garden or a Punch and Judy show would provide 
the richest outlet for our energies. In any case, 



THE GLORIOUS TWELFTH 37 

variety is the essence of life, and one of the most 
delightful of all the ages of man is vagabondage. 
We took the main road to the North, and 
continued our journey through scenery which was a 
perpetual charm to the eye and rest to the mind. 
The one and only drawback to the Tour was the 
motors. These were innumerable and intolerable. 
What with the stink of their petrol, the bray of 
their hooters, the pother of their dust, and the 
illimitable lordliness of their occupants, they added 
appreciably to the terrors of life. There is some- 
thing so infernally aggressive and provocative 
about them. Apart from this, however, our Tour 
was a continuous happiness. As we passed through 
Birnam we saw the famous wood named in 
" Macbeth," and a most wonderful avenue of trees 
in the grounds of the hotel. Soon after this we 
reached Dunkeld, and visited the beautiful ruins of 
the Cathedral. The trees in this neighbourhood 
are very striking; some of the oaks, yews, elms, 
beeches, firs, chestnuts on the Duke of Athole's 
estate are truly magnificent. The Cathedral dates 
from the twelfth century. The chancel was under- 
going restoration when we saw it, and is now being 
used for public worship. There is a wonderful 
glen to the left of the road between Dunkeld and 
Pitlochry, and several times I endangered my life 
by riding with my eyes behind me. In some places 



38 TWO ON A TOUR 

the woods enveloped the road, and we sped 
through dark tunnels of living green, and had 
glimpses into dim, mysterious recesses where the 
deer moved stealthily through the glade. Pitlochry 
is a pleasant little town of substantial stone houses, 
with many hydros and hotels. It was evidently 
very full of visitors, and the streets were quite gay 
with movement and life. A number of athletic 
young women, clothed in tweeds and swinging golf 
clubs, bright of eye and tanned by wind and sun, 
filled the air with merry talk and laughter. 
Excellent shops on either side of the road; neat 
churches; business-like banks; carts, charabancs, 
motors, bicycles, carriages, perambulators, bath- 
chairs; it was quite a centre of civilisation, 
fashionable, genteel, select. Since we possessed 
none of these qualities we did not linger in 
Pitlochry, but took the road again after refresh- 
ment at a confectioner's which would have done no 
discredit to Glasgow or Edinburgh. The next 
place of call was Blair Athole, a prettier place than 
Pitlochry, but still too fashionable, genteel, and 
select for a couple of Bohemians like ourselves. I 
advised pushing on to Struan, where I knew there 
were no shops, no dashing coaches, no villas 
exuding respectability and Established Churchism, 
no distracting maids flourishing golf sticks; 
nothing but an inn, a post-office, a railway station, 



THE GLORIOUS TWELFTH 39 

a roaring river, and the everlasting hills. It was 
8.30 when we arrived at Struan, and the dusk was 
gathering. We had ridden fifty-eight miles, and 
were feeling tired and hungry. It is always my 
business to negotiate with the inn-keepers on these 
expeditions; Christopherson flatly declines to do 
so. As recorded in the Prologue, the nearest 
approach to a quarrel we ever had was on the head 
of this idiosyncrasy. The inn at Struan is very 
small; I should fancy a dozen persons would 
inconveniently overcrowd it. A girl answered my 
summons at the bell, and seemed to hesitate when 

I enquired if they could put up two travellers 
for the night. She said she " would see," and 
disappeared to the kitchen. 

In a few moments she returned and said they, 
were rather full but hoped we would not mind 

II sleeping out." 

I said, " Not a bit; is it far?" thinking that we 
were to be lodged at some neighbouring cottage. 

She said "No"; and with that she led me 
round through the tiny garden to the back of the 
inn, where was the most extraordinary collection 
of outhouses I ever saw in my life. They were 
planted everywhere among the cabbages and beans 
and peas, and had wooden walls and tin roofs. 
The girl opened the door of one of these huts and 
disclosed a bedroom, lit with one window and a 



40 TWO ON A TOUR 

port-hole. Here we lodged for the night, with the 
window open wide to the cabbages on one side 
and the port-hole gazing at us like a gigantic eye 
somewhere near the roof. We formed a 
picturesque procession next morning at seven 
through the garden to the bathroom (in a costume 
approximately resembling that reported to have 
been worn in the Garden of Eden), breakfasted 
at eight, and before ten we had begun the long 
ascent of the Grampians. 



OVER THE GRAMPIANS 

"Over the hills and far away." 

— John Gay: " The Beggars' Opera. 



OVER THE GRAMPIANS 

The morning of August 1 3th dawned mistily, but 
by the time breakfast was disposed of the mist had 
cleared from the hills, and it became evident that 
we were in for a blazing day. Christopherson, who 
is always eloquent on the subject of early starts the 
night before, discovered a deck chair in the tiny 
garden in front of the Struan Inn, and here he 
threatened to become a fixture under the combined 
influences of a good breakfast, a pipe of John 
Cotton, the genial sun, and a comfortable disposal 
of his bulk in this seductive canvas. I could see 
him settling down into a state of ineffable content, 
and he would have preferred to be carried over the 
Grampians in a palanquin rather than bestride his 
bicycle and perspire over his pedals. A pleasant 
and friendly young man staying at the Inn 
fortunately cut short this meditative frame, and 
roused us up to go to see some fine falls in the 
vicinity. The spectacle of the falling water coming 
over the boulders with such a rush of foam, 
throwing up clouds of spray in which danced a 



44 TWO ON A TOUR 

dozen rainbows, seemed to put new spirit into us, 
and by ten o'clock we were slowly grinding our 
way up the lower slopes of the Grampians. 

I never saw the Highlands looking more lovely. 
The sun poured out of a cloudless sky; every hill 
was sharply defined against the blue; the moor- 
land stretched away into enchanting distances ; the 
heather was a gorgeous purple, and spread itself 
over the mountain-sides like a robe. At the left 
hand of the road a narrow river ran merrily, its 
water sparkling in the sunshine, breaking into 
gleaming eddies, babbling over smooth, round 
stones, falling suddenly over little ledges with a 
deliriously cool sound; its company was most 
pleasant, and it filled the air for many a mile with 
its lively chatter. Here and there it glided into 
a deep pool with a dark surface through which 
the sun shone with a rich tawny splendour ; and as 
the day grew hotter, Christopherson, who has a 
mania for bathing, displayed an alarming yearning 
to disrobe himself there and then, and disport 
himself in one of these pools. We compromised 
matters later on by bathing our faces and hands 
in a tinkling burn by a stone bridge, where we 
rested, and smoked, and basked in the sun, and 
talked nonsense, and thought long, long thoughts. 

It is a hopeless task to attempt to describe the 
beauty of this wonderful road over the hills. The 



OVER THE GRAMPIANS 45 

guide books and road books all advise the cyclist 
to do this journey by train; but no cyclist with a 
grain of self-respect will dream of taking the 
advice. I would not have missed those twenty 
miles from Struan to Dalwhinnie for worlds. It 
was the finest part of our whole route. Of course, 
we did it under ideal conditions, and that makes 
all the difference. But what scenery! What 
colours ! What air ! That magnificent air of 
the Highlands is like the wine of the gods ! You 
can walk or ride any distance in it, and never feel 
more than a pleasant lassitude; to feel tired is 
impossible. I believe there is a passage in Holy 
Writ in which a love-sick maiden speaks of her 
beloved coming to her skipping over the hills. I 
feel sure that her swain must have given this 
evidence of his ecstasy and agility somewhere 
between Dalnaspidal and Dalwhinnie. The air at 
that spot would put springs into any man's legs 
and a song in any man's heart. 

As we passed Dalnaspidal, we had a glimpse of 
Loch Garry in the distance, and I arranged 
(mentally and provisionally) to build my country 
cottage there when I retire from the active duties of 
life, and live to a patriarchal age, growing turnips, 
writing poems, publishing garrulous reminiscences, 
and drawing my old-age pension from successive 
Governments for centuries. There appears to be 



46 TWO ON A TOUR 

no valid reason why anybody should die on these 
Delectable Mountains. It would seem to be more 
reasonable that he should emulate Elijah, and be 
transported to other realms in a chariot of fire. 
The trouble was that I made precisely similar 
arrangements for the future in at least a dozen 
different places. Who can pick and choose where 
all is so gloriously attractive? 

By the time we reached Dalwhinnie — the summit 
of the road — we had an appetite like a menagerie. 
After lunching, we strolled down to the shores of 
Loch Ericht, and lay on the heather beside the 
gleaming waters in a state of serene content. The 
strong air and the hot sun induced that exquisite 
condition of mind so exactly described by 
Stevenson as " the apotheosis of stupidity." 
Through half-closed eyes we watched the cattle 
come down to drink, blowing sweet breath through 
their shining nostrils ; the tiny steamer panting at 
the pier; the fishers sitting immovable in boats; 
the motors ploughing their way along the dusty, 
distant road; the peewits circling and hovering 
over the moor; the sportsmen appearing for a 
moment on the hill- top, like silhouettes against the 
blue sky, and then suddenly vanishing; the blue 
smoke of John Cotton curling up under our own 
noses — it was a state approaching Nirvana. If an 
earthquake had occurred, and the ground had 



OVER THE GRAMPIANS 47 

opened to swallow us as it swallowed Dathan and 
Abiram (persons of melancholy but abiding fame), 
I verily believe we should have gone down into the 
abyss nodding our heads amicably at each other, 
wreathed in smiles of imperturbable satisfaction. 

I punctured again at Dalwhinnie, and the local 
postman came to the rescue. He did his job well, 
and, with most Christian self-denial, made no 
charge. I was so struck with this signal mark of 
favour that I warmly pressed his hand, and pressed 
something into it at the same time. 

We tore ourselves away from Dalwhinnie with 
infinite reluctance. A fair Highland lassie, with 
luxuriant auburn hair, stood at the gate of a garden 
next the Post Office to see us off. I believe she 
waved her handkerchief to Christopherson — who 
somehow always receives these marks of favour 
— as we rode away. It is his glowing eye and 
ingenuous smile that works the oracle, I fancy. 
The road still wound like a white ribbon through 
the hills, but the great ascent was over and the 
gradients were now short and easy, and much of 
the way was quite level. We passed through 
Newtonmore and bore down upon Kingussie. 
Kingussie was evidently overflowing with visitors, 
and two or three bevies of cycling damsels crowded 
us into the wall on one side of the road with no 
ceremony. This drew from Christopherson some 

D 



48 TWO ON A TOUR 

rather caustic remarks about suffragettes, but 
under the genial influence of that intoxicating 
beverage, soda and milk, he soon recovered his 
customary gallantry. I bade him remember the 
fluttering 'kerchief at Dalwhinnie, whereat he 
sighed. 

The sun was now beginning to dip towards the 
west, and beautiful lights showed over the tops of 
the hills. We passed through a dense wood a few 
miles beyond Kingussie, and as dusk was rapidly 
falling we came in sight of a solitary loch. It is 
quite a small sheet of water, but it lies like a mirror 
at the ioot of considerable hills, which were 
reflected in it darkly as we halted by its shores. It 
looked so solitary and peaceful, and the evening 
light made it so magical and weird, and the tall fir 
trees near at hand were so mysterious with their 
depth of shadow, that Christopherson became 
quite pensive and poetical, and felt as, I opine, 
Longfellow must have felt when he wrote " The 
Psalm of Life." I might have felt the same but 
for the fact that I had just discovered an evil- 
looking nail, with a square impregnable head, 
firmly embedded in my front tyre. On making this 
discovery I never felt less Psalm-of-Life-like since 
I was born. I pointed it out to Christopherson, 
who was brute enough to break into a stentorian 
roar of laughter. The accursed nail and the 



OVER THE GRAMPIANS 49 

blessed peace of the loch combined, determined 
our destiny for the night. The lights of an inn 
twinkled a few yards up the road, and we hung up 
our hats. The stuffed head of a magnificent 
Highland bull stared down at us from the parlour 
wall while we supped, and a stuffed eagle and a 
horned owl peered at us from a huge oak side- 
board. After supper we strolled down to the loch, 
and gave ourselves up to the enticements of 
tobacco and the sweet influences of the Pleiades. 



THE PLACE OF MYSTERY 

u O'er all there hung the shadow of a fear, 
A sense of mystery the spirit daunted, 
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear, 
The place is haunted. ,, 

— Hood; "The Haunted House/' 



THE PLACE OF MYSTERY 

Christopherson and I sat down upon a stone 
wall and gazed upon the lake. There was a 
profound silence, broken now and then by a rising 
trout or a sighing among the fir trees. Behind one 
of the high hills a silver moon was rising, and 
soon it flung a shimmering pathway across the 
waters of the loch. When we returned to the inn 
an hour later we found ourselves locked out, and 
the whole place plunged in darkness. After 
hammering at the door several times a gruff voice 
demanded through the keyhole who we were and 
what we wanted. With some difficulty we managed 
to assure our interlocutor that we were the two 
individuals who had already supped, and that we 
now wished to go to bed. 

There was a rattling of chains and a drawing of 
rusty bolts and the creaking of a key, and the door 
slowly opened and we were admitted. These 
sounds, combined with the gloom of the interior 
and the solitude of our surroundings, gave me an 
eerie and uncomfortable feeling. 



54 TWO ON A TOUR 

There are some places that leave a weird and 
sinister impression on the mind, and this was one 
of them. It was literally a roadside inn, with no 
garden or space between the entrance and the 
highway, and I thought of Dick Turpin and Jack 
Sheppard. A story I had read long years before 
also returned to me in a flash, in which was a 
picture of a traveller lying asleep in a lonely inn, 
and a trap-door was open above his bed, through 
which a fierce face glared at the sleeper. When 
our candle was lit I held on to Christopherson's 
jacket as we mounted the groaning stairs. It was 
near midnight. The inn was full of dark, low 
rooms, gloomy alcoves, narrow passages, and a 
horrible array of rusty firelocks, blunderbusses, 
pistols and cutlasses hung on the wall immediately 
outside our bedroom door. I freely confess that 
the imminent neighbourhood of this arsenal had an 
ill effect upon my dreams. Our bedroom was as 
near the tiles as a bedroom well could be, and the 
ceiling was so low in that part of the room where 
my bed was that when I laid my head upon the 
pillow I felt as if I was balancing the chimney- 
stalk outside on the bridge of my nose. 

Christopherson made few remarks as we 
disrobed, but there was evidently a highwayman 
riding furiously in his excited imagination, for 
before getting into bed he built up such a barricade 






THE PLACE OF MYSTERY 55 

of miscellaneous articles against the door that, if 
anyone had attempted an entry during the dead 
waste and middle of the night, there would have 
been a fall like the crash of doom. The railway 
ran just the other side of the road through a deep 
cutting, and every time a train passed, the house 
trembled and shook from garret to basement. The 
last sounds I heard as I fell into an uneasy slumber 
were a tough snore from Christopherson and the 
thunder of the Grampian express. 

The mystic influences of the night and the 
gloomy solitude of the inn still overshadowed us 
in the morning, and after paying our score we took 
the road again with a grim and determined 
expression upon our faces, like the warders in 
Hood's poem: — 

" Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn 
Through the cold and heavy mist." 

Our conversation was monosyllabic for some miles, 
and it was not until we had passed through the 
next village that we began to recover our spirits. 
The scenery here is pretty, but far tamer than 
what we had passed through on the previous 
day. Those glorious miles between Struan and 
Dalwhinnie had spoiled us, and made this quieter 
beauty seem quite ordinary and commonplace. 
Presently we arrived at Carr Bridge. Here we 



56 TWO ON A TOUR 

purchased some delicious pears from the local 
grocer, and imbibed more of that heavy fluid, soda 
and milk. Christopherson wasted his substance 
most riotously on picture postcards in nearly every 
place we came to, and spent an inordinate amount 
of time in the post-office, writing affectionate 
messages to an extensively wide circle of friends 
and relations. At Carr Bridge I stood watching 
two boys fishing for nearly an hour, while 
Christopherson was scribbling everlastingly with 
his fountain pen in front of the post-office. 

The road rises steadily out of Carr Bridge, and 
the prospect begins to grow wilder and more 
romantic. It was a magnificent day, and we took 
things easily. A memorable spot in this day's ride 
was the Findhorn Bridge, with a fine view of the 
splendid railway viaduct over the river in the dis- 
tance. The Findhorn is a rapid, tawny-coloured 
stream, flowing just here through a wide expanse of 
green pastoral country between two lines of hills, 
thickly wooded. The water looked cool and 
inviting, so, leaving our steeds at a tiny shop the 
other side of the bridge, we descended to the level 
of the river, performed our ablutions, ate our pears, 
lay on the green bank watching the rising trout, 
and offered incense to the gods. Words cannot 
utter the delight of these interludes. 

Presently we passed through the picturesque 



THE PLACE OF MYSTERY 57 

little village of May, and not long afterwards 
descended the hill to Daviot. There is a road here 
which branches off to the left, and takes the 
traveller into the glorious region of Loch Ruthven, 
Loch Choire, and Loch Duntelchaig — all three 
quite small lakes, but unspeakably beautiful, 
romantic, solitary. The mere passer-by might not 
be much impressed by them, but to stay a month in 
their neighbourhood, as I have done, is to feel that 
there is a Spirit in the place, brooding on the 
mountains, breathing on the moors, hovering 
invisible on the face of the waters, walking in this 
wild garden in the cool of the day. Christopherson 
and I had no time to take this road, so we turned 
to the right and went up over the hill to 
Drummossie Moor. They were cutting down fir 
trees here, and the resinous scent of the sawn wood 
filled the air. Soon we came to the brow of the 
steep hill that descends to Inverness, and we had 
over a couple of miles of magnificent free-wheeling 
down into the city. 

I consider Inverness to be the prettiest town I 
have seen in Scotland. It is not so impressive as 
Glasgow, nor so romantic as Edinburgh, nor so 
interesting as St. Andrews, nor so solidly 
substantial as Aberdeen (" that city of greed and 
granite," as Gilfillan once described it to my 
father) ; but Inverness has a fascination and a 



58 TWO ON A TOUR 

charm which belongs to none of these. It has a 
warmer and homelier appearance than any other 
Scottish town I have ever seen. Its suburbs have 
trim, neat houses with pleasant gardens, after the 
English fashion, and it is commendably free from 
the tall tenements and cold, forbidding closes 
which so revolt my Southern soul. The glory of 
Inverness is the river. I never saw a river that 
runs with so prodigious a hurry to the sea or in so 
continuous a body : every drop of water from bank 
to bank seems to mean business, and hastens 
onward in the never-ceasing flow. Then there 
are the beautiful wooded Islands, and the many 
picturesque bridges, and the imposing church 
spires on the banks, and the charming houses and 
gardens that front the water, and the Castle 
looking down commandingly upon all. 

After dinner at the Royal Hotel — a most 
blessed and satisfactory haven — Christopherson 
and I strolled down to the riverside, and sat there 
for a long time watching the continuous flood. 
We had only ridden thirty-five miles to-day, and 
it was still early evening. A band was playing 
somewhere down among the Islands, and quite a 
concourse of pedestrians was setting that way. But 
Christopherson's eagle eye had caught an alluring 
advertisement of a miscellaneous Show, and thither 
we turned our steps. It was a remarkable enter- 



THE PLACE OF MYSTERY 59 

tainment. Half the slides of the lantern exhibition 
appeared on the screen upside down and had to 
be reversed, and some of the living pictures 
stubbornly refused to behave themselves, and 
displayed nothing but a series of human legs, 
without bodies attached, wandering aimlessly and 
ludicrously about what purported to be an 
exhibition or a public park. There was a comedian 
— or at least a person so described upon the 
programme — who gave the most melancholy and 
depressing " turns " I ever witnessed. There was 
an attenuated lady who sang soprano, and a 
substantial lady who sang a strident contralto with 
an accent obviously derived from the east end of 
London, though her name it was Moira Mactavish, 
or words to that effect. This lady also made a 
second appearance, in abbreviated skirts of a 
Highland character, and danced reels and flings 
and strathspeys with demonic energy. This was 
the only exhilarating part of the show, and when 
the vigorous lady put one hand on her hip and the 
other in the air, and pointed her dainty toe, and 
twirled like a teetotum to the accompaniment of a 
downright Scottish air, I was so roused in spirit 
that I thought for the moment my name was 
Macgregor, and shouted " Hooch ! " in eldritch 
tones, and was immediately led forth by the 
scandalised Christopherson into the night. 



THE HIGHLAND CAPITAL 

v ' Fair weather coineth out of the North." 

-Job 



THE HIGHLAND CAPITAL 

We were extremely loth to leave Inverness. But 
our time was limited, to say nothing of our material 
resources, and we were compelled to push on. We 
lingered, however, as long as we could. Rain had 
fallen in the night, and fallen smartly too, and the 
roads were wet for the first and only time during 
the whole tour. Christopherson, therefore, de- 
clared his intention of postponing the start till 
eleven o'clock; and when Christopherson makes 
definite announcements of this sort they have all 
the force of a decree. It was Saturday, and the 
town was busy and animated. Scores of motors 
whirled through the streets; streams of tourists 
poured out of the station — the holiday season was 
in full swing. We made our way to a jeweller's, 
and purchased offerings for our respective wives, 
by way of some slight but wholly inadequate 
compensation for our prolonged absence. Thence 
we invaded a confectioner's, where we bought some 
exceedingly solid sandwiches for consumption on 
the road, which eventually proved of such paving- 
stone consistency that they could only be divided 



64 TWO ON A TOUR 

by the aid of clasp-knives. These preparations 
completed, we bade a tearful farewell to the 
" Royal/* and headed our steeds for the road to 
Dingwall. 

It was cloudy when we started, but the air was 
fresh and sweet, and the clouds soon rolled away, 
and the sun shone warm and clear. The road for 
some miles skirts the shores of Beauly Firth. A 
fine tang of the sea came up to our nostrils on the 
breeze ; the pungent odour of sea-weed left by the 
newly-ebbed tide mingled with a score of other 
fresh and wholesome scents. When we breathed 
in this glorious air, so laden with the tonic of earth 
and sea, and filled our lungs with it, we shouted 
like schoolboys; and Christopherson, who on 
ordinary occasions cannot raise a note, was safely, 
delivered of a bar or two of that inspiriting ode, 
" The Massacre of Macpherson." 

In describing this part of our tour to my 
venerable father, I told him of this road by the sea 
out from Inverness, and he stoutly maintained that 
I must be dreaming, and that Inverness was 
nowhere near the coast. From which I inferred 
that his geography was deficient. It was useless to 
argue the matter, useless to present the evidence 
of our own eyes backed up by the equally 
convincing evidence of a map, useless to describe 
the locality. If my revered parent has made up 






THE HIGHLAND CAPITAL 65 

his mind that a thing is so, why then, so it is. If 
he says Inverness is an inland town, it is an inland 
town, and there's an end on't. But Christopher son 
and I still have that sea-breeze in our lungs; and 
we are both prepared to take our solemn Davy 
— even to stake our immortal souls — that it greeted 
us ere we were five minutes out of the heart of 
Inverness. 

It is a glorious ride to Dingwall: broad roads, 
— smooth surfaces, long levels, easy declivities, 
exquisite glimpses of sea and land — a cyclist's 
paradise. Dingwall is a little market town, 
substantially built, and proud of its connection with 
Hector Macdonald, to whose memory there is a 
fine monument erected. I went into a green- 
grocer's and bought some pears. They were dear 
— twopence-halfpenny each — but they were large 
and most tempting. I purchased four, laid down 
a shilling and departed. When I got outside the 
door, I was troubled with a sense of something 
wrong. I was never strong on mental arithmetic, 
but on mature reflection I came to the conclusion 
that four pears at twopence - halfpenny each 
amounted to tenpence. My suspicions were con- 
firmed when by the aid of a stub of pencil I 
figured it out on an adjacent doorpost : they were 
tenpence. Turning back into the shop, I gently 
intimated my conviction to the salesman, and 



66 TWO ON A TOUR 

reminded him I had given him a shilling. He also 
was not strong on mental arithmetic, and again I 
had recourse to the pencil. I convinced him of his 
error. He smiled, put his hand into the till, and 
handed me back my lawful " tuppence " with an 
embarrassed air. " Ye maun excuse me," he said, 
" I'm no' the real shopman here — he's awa' for 
his lunch!" There was something so naive and 
child-like about this that I felt quite guilty at 
receiving my change, his confusion was so genuine. 
A few miles further on we came to Strathpeffer, 
a most beautiful resort for persons in search of 
health and rest — a fashionable Spa, with fine 
hotels, great hydros, pleasure-gardens, concert- 
halls, band-stands, bath-chairs, and mineral 
springs. These last are, I believe, nauseous but 
invigorating, having the flavour (as Sam Welle r 
once asserted of the waters at Bath) of " warm 
flat-irons." They appear, however, to do some 
good, aided no doubt by a powerful imagination 
and the magnificent air ; for the beautiful English 
Church there is full of gifts bestowed upon it by 
grateful patients, and there is a naive circular in 
the porch, signed by the Canon in residence, 
setting forth the various wants of the church, and 
beseeching the good folk who have benefited by the 
warm flat-irons to supply the deficiences. It seems 
a pleasant notion, but a little singular, too ; and it 



THE HIGHLAND CAPITAL 67 

would be interesting to have the history of the gifts 
— to know that here was a gouty stained-glass 
window and there a rheumatic altar-cloth; here a 
pair of dyspeptic candlesticks and there a liverish 
lectern; that this prie-dieu is associated with a 
stomachic complaint, and that collecting-box can 
trace its ancestry to influenza. If such a history 
were printed in a neat pamphlet and left in the 
pews, it might prove a great aid to devotion, and 
might be appropriately bound up with the Oxford 
Helps and the Thirty-Nine Articles. 

Soon after leaving Strathpeffer the road winds 
through some exquisite woods, where the growth 
reminds one of a jungle. There is abundance of 
bracken on either side, waving grasses, beautiful 
mosses, many wild flowers, and a great variety of 
trees. By and by we heard the subdued roar of 
falling water in the distance, and suddenly a 
clearing appeared on our right, and we looked 
through the intervening space to the Rogie Falls 
— a leap of white foam glittering in the sunshine, 
throwing up a cloud of spray, and spanned by a 
light bridge just below the fall. The sight of this 
falling water, framed like a picture in the green of 
the surrounding trees, looked like a scene upon the 
stage. So lovely was it, that we dismounted to 
feast our eyes upon it ; and as we watched, a dark 
object appeared momentarily against the white 



68 TWO ON A TOUR 

foam, curved like a bow, and as suddenly vanished. 
It was a salmon trying to leap the fall. It was a 
memorable picture — the distant fall, the rushing 
river, the lovely trees, the glimpses of blue above, 
the carpet of living green below, the waving ferns, 
the nodding grasses, the leaping fish. We stood 
there entranced for several minutes, and spoke no 
word. We might have been in Fairyland. 

Another half-hour brought us to Loch Garve, 
and here we resolved to remain over the Sunday. 
Thirty-five miles was our record for to-day; we 
were fit and fresh, it was early evening, and we 
could have gone on for miles. But Garve was 
beautiful, and we were hungry; so having put up 
our steeds, we adjourned to the tiny river near 
the inn and ate as much of our paving-stone 
sandwiches as we could, and gave the residue to 
the fowls of the air. 



GARVE 

" What ! shut the Gardens ! lock the latticed gate ! 

Refuse the shilling and the Fellow's ticket! 
And hang a wooden notice up to state, 

'On Sundays no admittance at this wicket!' 
The birds, the beasts, and all the reptile race 

Denied to friends and visitors till Monday! 
Now, really, this appears the common case 

Of putting too much Sabbath into Sunday — 

But what is your opinion, Mrs. Grundy?" 

— Hood: "An Open Question/ 7 



GARVE 

Garve! It is not a beautiful name: but it falls 
soft and comfortable upon my ear, like a pleasant 
chime sounding through the luminous mists of 
memory. A certain Queen once declared that the 
name of ' 'Calais " would be found engraven on 
her heart : I fancy that if a surgical operation were 
performed upon Christopherson, "Garve " would 
be discovered in letters of flame within his manly 
breast. As we came slowly through the trees down 
the hill that skirts the loch, the lights of evening 
were lying quiet upon the hills and the water, and 
everything was steeped as it were in a wonderful 
stillness. We dismounted to survey this fair scene. 
Loch Garve is not extensive ; you can take it all in 
at a glance ; but it lies like a mirror in the heart of 
high hills, and the whole neighbourhood is one of 
singular charm. The railway runs between the 
road and the loch, but trains are few, and 
there is little to destroy the beauty or disturb the 
peace of the scene. In the cool of the evening 
Christopherson and I took a walk through some 
woods on the other side of the lake, where the 
deer moved stealthily in the shade of the trees, and 
rabbits swarmed by the hundred in the adjacent 



72 TWO ON A TOUR 

fields. In the distance these fields looked as if 
their whole surface was alive. As we approached 
I thought these brown spots were heaps of mould 
flung up on the green by the moles : but as we drew 
nearer every brown patch suddenly took to flight, 
and vanished with extraordinary rapidity. The 
whole meadow was a twinkle of white tails. We 
sat late outside the Inn that Saturday night, 
discussing our ride, watching the lovely lights in 
the sky, and listening to the music of a piano well 
played by some young man in the drawing-room 
just above where we were sitting. The youth 
presently began to sing a love-song, and Christo- 
pherson fell almost into a state of coma through 
excess of sentiment. 

We were not sorry to have the Sunday's rest, 
and Garve is an ideal spot to rest in. A Sabbatic 
calm pervaded the place when we rose on Sunday 
morning. There were five or six other guests at 
the Inn ; two young men on a motor tour ; a young 
man cycling; an old gentleman of philosophic 
mien; a lady, who was addicted to the simple 
fruits of the earth, and her husband, whose beard 
descended in a foaming cascade to the middle 
button of his waistcoat, and who would have 
commanded instant reverence if he had spoken no 
word. But the opening of his lips broke the spell. 
He was a wealthy and genial vulgarian, and his 



GARVE 73 

Cockney accent could have been cut with a knife. 
The breakfast table that Sunday morning was not 
enlivening. These people had been bright and 
human enough the night before, but the Sabbath 
seemed to wrap them in immitigable gloom. They 
bent over their porridge with graven-image 
solemnity, and the conversation was limited to 
" Please hand me the toast/' or " Be good enough 
to pass the salt/' The old gentleman of philo- 
sophic mien who sat at one end of the table was 
particularly depressing, and sighed so strongly and 
so frequently that I felt as if I were sitting in a 
draught. Outside, all Nature was gay: she had 
put on her best Sunday robe, and appeared to 
consider the day worthy of her brightest colours 
and her most golden sunshine. We escaped from 
the cordon of gloom around the breakfast table as 
soon as we could, and breathed more freely 
outside. We decided to take our cue from Nature, 
and be gay. 

I despair of conveying any idea of the incom- 
comparable glory of that day. We climbed a 
mountain on the right of the Inn, and spent the 
morning in ecstatic contemplation. At the summit 
we looked down upon the long narrow waters of 
Loch Luichart which wound like a blue serpent 
between the hills. The heather was a blaze of 
purple everywhere: we sank knee-deep into it as 



7 4 TWO ON A TOUR 

we roamed the mountain side. High peaks showed 
in the distance all about us: we realised that we 
were in the very midst of the " Bens." Looking 
across on the Garve side of our mountain, the view 
was indescribably lovely. Loch Garve itself 
spread like a silver shield at the foot of the hills ; 
a tiny river ran into it at one end, winding like a 
shining ribbon through the valley. Farms and 
estates appeared here and there, but scarce a 
human being anywhere. Little Ben Wyvis rose 
just opposite, and to the left the hills and moors 
leading over to Poolewe and Ullapool. The 
Ullapool road stretched white through the valley, 
and disappeared over the hilltop in the distance. 
The hot sun, the blue sky, the sweet air, the slight 
haze giving a touch of mystery to the scene, the 
exquisite colours, the infinite peace, made up a 
morning of enchantment. The suggestion of 
dinner broke the spell. It seemed a profanation, 
but we were hungry, and after all one cannot dine 
on the horizon. We spent the afternoon by the 
side of the loch. We talked books, philosophy, 
theology, human nature, and had a reporter been 
present I might have been able to fill columns with 
the radiant result. Now and then a flight of wild 
ducks streamed across the lake; this and the 
musical ripple of the water against the stones on 
the shore were the only sounds that broke the 



GARVE 75 

perfect silence. I cannot tell whether it was the 
tonic of the air and the ravishing beauty of the day, 
or the reaction from the awful solemnity of the 
breakfast and dinner table, but as the sun declined 
our spirits rose to concert pitch. Christopherson 
had set his heart on launching a log lying on the 
shore, and between us we set it afloat. We 
christened it the Dreadnought, and followed it up 
with a few torpedo boats. The day was a leaf out 
of our boyhood. 

When the evening descended upon Garve we 
sallied out for a final walk before turning in for 
for the night. I have seldom seen anything more 
beautiful than the approach of darkness in these 
mountain solitudes. The landscape changes like 
a dissolving view. Gradually the sharp outlines 
of the hills are softened; all definite shapes slowly 
melt into a background of purple twilight ; wreaths 
of mist begin to fill the hollows and trail across 
the peaks ; the tracks of sunset fade away, leaving 
a faint glow where the glory has been; stars 
appear one by one; silence clothes one like a robe. 
Few are the lights in human habitations. The 
houses themselves are few, and the people are early 
to rest. By ten o'clock not a light could be seen 
anywhere, and as we tramped along the deserted 
road we might have been the only people in the 
world. 



LOCH MAREE 

'Land of the mountain and the flood." 

— Scott. 



LOCH MAREE 

The breakfast table at Garve Hotel was enlivened 
on Monday morning by the Cockney gentleman 
with the foaming beard. He was regaling us with 
anecdotes of the days when he resided in the royal 
town of Windsor. I think he would have us believe 
that he was persona grata at the Castle; at any 
rate he desired us to understand that he had 
received a bow all to himself from Queen Victoria. 

11 I was in my motor car/' he said, "one mornin' 
near Windsor, when I saw a hout-rider comin* 
along the road. 'Alio, says I, 'ere comes the 
Queen! I pulled up the motor to the side of the 
road, for I knew 'Er Majesty didn't much like 
motors ; an' in a couple of minutes hup she comes 
in 'er carriage. I took off me 'at, and she looked 
straight at me an' bowed. So yer see I 'ad the 
Queen all to meself for a minute ! " 

The old gentleman grew so excited over this 
reminiscence that he choked over his porridge, and 
had to be thumped on the back by his wife to 
bring him round. After breakfast he strolled about 
the front of the Inn, and condescended to be 
facetious with a couple of gillies. It was 



80 TWO ON A TOUR 

excruciating to hear him attempting the Scottish 
accent. " Well, Wullie, hae ye bin fushin'?" This 
in a Cockney twang was a treat for the angels. 

As for the other old gentleman, of philosophic 
mien, we met him as we were pushing our bicycles 
up the hill beyond the Inn. He greeted us warmly, 
and descanted on bicycle touring in an exordium, 
four heads, and an application. It was quite 
sermonic both in form and matter, and we were 
duly impressed. The gist of his remarks was that 
cycling was physically, intellectually, morally, and 
spiritually improving and elevating; which we 
naturally accepted as a high tribute to our 
appearance and demeanour. 

Our destination for the day's ride was Gairloch : 
forty-six miles from Garve. It was 9.45 when we 
bade farewell to Garve, and the sun shone upon us 
out of a cloudless sky. Had the road been of better 
quality, this would perhaps have been the greatest 
day of the tour. But the road was dry and dusty; 
its surface had been villainously ploughed up by 
motor traffic ; large stones lay on the top, and deep 
gravelly ruts nearly spilled us at intervals out of 
out saddles. It needed wary riding. It was dis- 
tinctly trying, for the scenery was magnificent, and 
our attention was largely taken up with watching 
the treacherous road. I wonder I came through the 
day with a whole iskin, for despite the road I could 



LOCH MAREE 81 

not help looking back continually at the wonderful 
landscape we had passed. There was a spot by 
the river Fannich where we sat for half an hour 
entranced. The river roared and tumbled through 
an open stretch of wild moorland, then suddenly 
took a turn almost at right angles and plunged 
through a rocky gorge, where it ran straight for 
several yards and then disappeared from view in 
a tangle of woodland. Not a human being beside 
ourselves was to be seen. A superb stag passed 
through the wood close beside us. Christopher son, 
who is highly susceptible to beauty, scenic as well 
as human, sat on a fallen tree and gazed into the 
gorge like a man in a trance. I addressed several 
observations to him, but he was wrapt in poetic 
ecstasy, and vouchsafed no reply. A few miles 
beyond this we came to the long stretch that runs 
into Achnasheen. The wide valley on our left was 
a bright emerald; a tiny river ran like a silver 
thread through the green; the mountains on the 
far side of the valley were bathed in sunshine, 
brilliant in colour, mysterious with distance; the 
village of Achnasheen looked like a jewel set in a 
circlet of hills. 

A mile beyond here is Loch Rosque, and I never 
realised so keenly how great a change weather 
can make in a landscape. Four years previously 
Christopherson and I had passed over this same 



82 TWO ON A TOUR 

ground, and had scarcely noticed Loch Rosque, 
for we were battling with wind and rain, and the 
mist brooded heavily over the hills and blotted 
them out. To-day the whole place was in a 
radiant glow of colour. The loch reflected the 
intense blue of the sky; a pleasant breeze rippled 
the water ; the mountains were covered with purple 
and green where heather and ferns predominated ; 
the sun blazed almost tropically and gave every- 
thing a burnished look. The long rise to the 
Queen's View at the head of Docherty Pass gave 
us some rare peeps of the beautiful road we had 
left behind. Now in front of us lay Loch Maree, 
flanked by superb mountains, of which Ben Slioch 
stands out bluff and bold on the right, going 
down in a sheer precipice to the water's edge. 
Christopherson had his share of puncturing now, 
and his bicycle was mended by the local blacksmith 
while we lunched at Kinlochewe. Blessed is the 
memory of Kinlochewe ! It gave us the best and 
cheapest lunch of our tour. Plenty reigned at that 
hospitable board; everything was clean, sweet, 
pleasant; hunger sharpened our appetites; the 
bitterness of certain former recollections was wiped 
out. 

We were jocund and gay when we set out again ; 
the conduct of Christopherson on the road skirting 
Loch Maree was of almost shocking hilarity. 



LOCH MAREE 83 

There is a rise in the road going over to Gairloch 
where we sat in the glow of evening and looked 
back at Ben Slioch, and saw it cut in two by a 
wonderful scarf of white cloud; it was our last 
glimpse of Loch Maree and all its attendant glory. 
The rest of our day's ride was indescribably 
beautiful. The country here is wild, rugged, 
shaggy, mountainous; with rushing torrents and 
quiet lakes, wide moors and shady glens, rocky 
passes and black ravines, bleak uplands and 
gloomy woods — a marvellous medley of untamed 
loveliness and grandeur. 

We rode into Gairloch at seven. There in front 
was the glorious wide bay, the distant outline of 
Skye, and far away on the horizon a cloud which 
was the Hebrides. The sun was beginning to 
decline in a riot of gorgeous colours. An hour or 
so later, as we sat in front of the great Hotel 
looking over the bay, two young ladies were 
rapidly painting the wonderful sunset effects ; but 
the changes were so rapid, they must have found 
it a difficult task. By nine o'clock the sky behind 
the hills over seaward was glowing like copper, 
and the waters of the bay were dyed as with blood. 



GAIRLOCH 

1 To bring such visionary scenes to pass 
One thing was requisite, and that was — money." 

—Hood: "A Black Job." 

" For I can raise no money by vile means." 

— Shakespeare: "Julius Ccesar." 



GAIRLOCH 

Our enjoyment of the beautiful evening at 
Gairloch was brought to a sudden and inglorious 
close. Our intention had been to leave Gairloch 
by the boat on Tuesday morning, and sail down 
to Oban. To our dismay, we found that the 
steamer only sailed three times a week — Monday, 
Wednesday, and Friday. This left us with a 
very pretty problem to settle. We had financed 
ourselves for a week, and now here was an extra 
day to be got in. Christopherson and I paced 
the sands gloomily, plunged in the profoundest 
meditation. We are neither of us great at mental 
arithmetic or calculations of any kind, and we were 
staggered at the prospect before us. We discussed 
several alternatives, all of which were discarded, 
and we adjourned to the smoke-room of the hotel 
and covered several sheets of paper with figures, 
and looked up all manner of time-tables, and grew 
grey with intellectual concentration. We dis- 
cussed Tariff Reform in a very minute and 
practical fashion indeed. It might perhaps be well 
for all cyclists with a tour in prospect to study 
tariff cards in particular beforehand. This, indeed, 



88 TWO ON A TOUR 

is one of the morals of this present trip. Had we 
but known before of certain matters in this 
direction, how much tribulation we might have 
been saved ! Had we but known, for instance, of 
the remarkably moderate tariff (which I have 
since seen), of the Pavilion Temperance Hotel in 
Dingwall, we should have left that delectable 
neighbourhood with a kindlier view of human 
nature. If Dingwall sees our faces again, we shall 
hold high revel in the Pavilion. However, here 
we were now, caught in the midst of a maze of 
arithmetical perplexity that threatened to turn our 
brains. At length light began to dawn out of 
darkness. We could do nothing but remain till 
Wednesday morning, and after all expenses had 
been allowed for, we found that, by joining forces 
and omitting table d'hote, we could both just get 
home again with a margin of ninepence. Having 
reached this cheering conclusion close upon 
midnight, we retired to rest in a state of great 
mental prostration, yet flushed with conquest. 

That Tuesday at Gairloch was a day of 
unalloyed delight. We rose at seven, and con- 
sulted with the waiter as to the propriety of two 
elderly gentlemen bathing from the beach without 
a tent or a machine. We gave him to understand 
in as delicate a way as we could that our appear- 
ance would be of a distinctly Adamic nature, as 



GAIRLOCH 89 

we had no equipment whatsoever. He assured us 
that Gairloch would be able to stand the shock, 
and with towels round our necks and 

. . . "doublet all unbraced; 
No hat upon the head; our stockings fouled, 
Ungartered, and down-gyved to the ancle," 

we sallied forth. The morning was such an one as 
might have dawned on Eden. An azure sky, an 
azure sea, a blazing sun tempered by a pleasant 
wind, a fresh wholesome air that made the pulse to 
leap and the heart to sing, a landscape of exquisite 
beauty: this was Gairloch on that August day. 
The yellow sand was firm beneath our feet, and the 
waves rolled in with a deliciously cool, refreshing, 
dreamy sound, and left a line of white foam there. 
Our disrobing room was spacious indeed, and it 
was as the waiter had said — not a single soul was 
abroad at that hour, so there was no need for us to 
blush when we stepped into the water " all face," 
as the Indians say. Ah, the cool silver shock of 
that clear blue water ! It made the skin tingle in 
every pore. 

The rest of the morning was occupied with a 
walk to Loch Tollie, about three miles from the 
Hotel, a beautiful little lake among the mountains. 
The day was intensely hot, and to walk far was 
impossible without discomfort. There is a tiny 



90 TWO ON A TOUR 

promontory that projects into Loch Tollie, and at 
the end of this we seated ourselves, and resigned 
ourselves to Nirvana. The beauty of the place and 
of the day soaked into us. I never saw a more 
exquisite blue than the waters of Loch Tollie that 
morning: it was so deep, yet so clear and radiant. 
Now and again the breeze rippled the surface, and 
tiny waves lapped idly on the stones at our feet. 
The whole scene was a feast of colour. Description 
is tedious and hopeless when attempting to 
reproduce ideal days and places and fellowships. 
On the way back to Gairloch we came upon a 
small pool by the roadside, into which a shallow 
stream emptied itself. As we were passing, a 
strong eddy agitated the surface, and looking into 
the clear water, we saw a single large trout 
swimming rapidly round and round, as if 
wondering how he had come to be so stranded and 
estranged from his fellows. Our shadows fell 
across the pool, and he instantly vanished under 
the overhanging bank. We tried to coax him out, 
to tickle him, to drive him up into the shallows, 
but he was proof against our blandishments, and 
finally retired into the dark hollow of the bank, 
where he prudently remained. The heather round 
this quiet pool was wonderful in its colour and 
profusion, and Christopherson and I each cut a 
big bunch to carry home with us. 



GAIRLOCH 91 

There was great excitement in front of the hotel 
when we returned to lunch: there was shouting 
and laughter, waving of sticks and handkerchiefs ; 
visitors and fishermen and waiters and ostlers were 
all standing in a motley crowd gazing seawards. 
It was a regatta. It consisted of but one race, but 
it consumed the interest of all Gairloch. A small 
steam yacht was gaily bedecked with flags. This 
was the Commodore. A gun was fired: it was 
either the beginning or the ending of the first heat. 
It was a brief affair altogether, but it created huge 
excitement while it lasted, and it led to serious 
results. We were strolling down to the pier in the 
afternoon, when we came upon a knot of fishermen 
standing on a grassy knoll a few feet above the 
level of the beach. Two of them were in the centre 
glaring at each other with wild eyes, and 
clamorous with loud voices. The rest stood round 
and waited. One man was much older than the 
other, and had a grizzled beard. Both were more 
or less drunk, and had quarrelled over a bet on 
the race. The younger man was making fierce 
gesticulations, seizing the other every now and then 
by the shoulder, thumping him in the chest, 
shaking his fist under his nose. The altercation 
seemed likely to go on for ever, and we did not 
stay to see the end of it : but we learned afterwards 
that the affair had culminated in a short but 



92 TWO ON A TOUR 

one-sided struggle, in which the younger man had 
knocked his antagonist down. The older man 
rolled right over the green bank on to the stones of 
the beach below, whence he emerged with a cut 
and bleeding countenance to take home to his wife. 

The only other excitement of the day was the 
arrival of the Gael from Oban. She was late, and 
glided over the smooth waters of the bay as the 
setting sun was again turning them into blood. 
There were not many passengers ; mostly tourists, 
who looked tired and hungry and glad to be at 
their journey's end. Christopherson was loud in 
his derision of a very staid and proper man, who 
made his appearance in a top hat and kid gloves, 
as if he were in Sauchiehall Street. It was with 
difficulty that I prevented Christopherson from 
accosting this person with profuse asseverations of 
mock friendship, and palming himself off as an old 
school chum. The crisis, however, was averted, 
and Christopherson lit a fresh pipe, descanted 
furiously upon the fashions, and nearly set the pier 
on fire by blowing some red-hot ashes out of his 
pipe in the energy of his explosive passion. 

The evening passed all too soon. It was our last 
day, and to-morrow we were to sail for home. The 
Gael was to start at 5.30 a.m., and we were to be 
roused from our slumbers at the unearthly hour of 
4. 1 5 A.M. We went to bed betimes in view of this 



GAIRLOCH 93 

early summons. The burning sun of that glorious 
day had made our skin glow like a furnace; we 
were like a couple of Red Indians. We slept 
profoundly that night. The heat had made us 
drowsy; the murmurous sound of the waves upon 
the shore made a dreamy lullaby. I knew no 
more till the Boots thundered at the door with 
distressing punctuality at 4.15 next morning, and 
it seemed as if I had only been asleep about ten 
minutes. 



THE LAST DAY 

"Time for us to go!" 

— Henley and Stevenson: 
David Pew in " Admiral Guinea: 



THE LAST DAY 

The last day ! It sounds mournful, and there is in 
our hearts the pathos of farewell. We are bidding 
goodbye to-day to the mountains, the moors, the 
sea, the air so much like wine, the tumbling rivers, 
the shining lochs, the quiet hamlets, the mysterious 
woods, the friendly Road. They seem to have 
been our travelling companions for so long. 
Worse still, we are bidding goodbye to each other. 
Nine illce lachrymce! Still, we have had what we 
have had. A new and beautiful chapter has been 
added to our experience. To go back home with 
melancholy faces would be black ingratitude. 
Besides, we still have ' 'health and a day" — enough, 
according to the Sage of Concord, to " make the 
pomp of empire ridiculous. " Moreover, we hope 
to meet again on some other day, on some other 
Road that goes " over the hills and far away." 

We have only been on the Road a week. It is 
incredible. It seems to us more like a month. To 
go on a tour with a congenial friend is to gain 
some inkling of the wondrous experience when 
" Time shall be no more." We have been away 



98 TWO ON A TOUR 

from all that Time so indelibly impresses upon us 
— the grooves of routine, the stereotype of custom, 
the programme of familiar duty, the petty round 
of irritating tasks and cares, the foolish yet 
pompous luxuries of civilisation (save those that 
carried us — our pair of dainty Ariels), and in the 
absence of these things clocks and watches have 
lost their power to intimidate and terrorise; the 
tyranny of the hours has passed away. It is at 
least a temporary abdication. For a whole week 
the sun has stood still and the moon has stayed 
her course. This is one of the abiding miracles 
of Change. New scenes, new faces, new thoughts, 
new companionships create the world afresh for 
us. There is so much to see and hear, to enjoy and 
wonder at, that mechanical calculation is at an 
end. So far from taking no anxious thought for 
the morrow, we take none for to-day. We have 
been boys again, and though a boy often asks the 
time, it matters not to him what the time is or how 
it goes. Sufficient unto the day is the good 
thereof. 

But alas ! we know only too well what the time 
is at this particular moment: it is 4.15 A.M., and 
the faithful Boots has just cannonaded at our 
bedroom door; Christopherson has replied with a 
snore and I with a grunt; and then, as the 
cannonade gradually attains its crescendo, its 



THE LAST DAY 99 

sinister meaning bursts through our drowsy brains, 
scattering their dreams like a cavalry charge. We 
simultaneously sit bolt upright in our respective 
beds, under a primary and profound impression 
that the Hotel is in flames or that the Day /of 
Judgment has arrived too soon. We sit glaring 
fiercely at each other across a few intervening 
yards of carpet and linoleum, remaining thus for 
several moments, as though each were threatening 
the other for this thunderous summons. 

The morning was chilly and raw. A thick white 
fog hung like a wooly curtain over the placid 
waters of the bay. The surrounding hills were 
invisible. It did not take us long to dress, to pack 
our touring bags, to take a preliminary breakfast, 
and to ride down to the pier. I was the first 
passenger that morning to arrive at the moorings 
of the Gael, and I found the sailors engaged in 
swabbing the decks. It looked a cold and Spartan 
process on that chill and foggy morning. In a 
few minutes we were all aboard, and the vessel 
steamed at half-speed through the bay, with the 
syren-whistle sending forth its dismal hoot at 
intervals — a sound that seemed to emphasise the 
rawness of the dawn and to drive it into the very 
marrow of our bones. As we drew slowly out, a 
trim white sailing yacht riding at anchor burst 
suddenly out of the mist, like some beautiful 



ioo TWO ON A TOUR 

phantom ship: a sailor was swabbing the deck; 
the master-owner was standing in his dressing- 
gown at the top of the cabin stairs; a lady in 
deshabille was close beside him; they all looked 
towards the passing steamer and waved their hands 
to us. " A bit thick/' cried the master to the 
captain on the bridge. An instant later the 
vessel was swallowed up in the mist. It had been 
like a picture or a vision, one of those rapid 
impressions one carries away in the mind, where it 
remains etched for ever on the memory. The mist 
did not disperse until after we had left Portree, 
where we took on a drove of over a hundred cattle. 
At last the wonderful peaks of the Skye mountains 
began to appear, and by the time we had reached 
Broadford the sun was driving the fog and cloud 
in every direction. We disembarked at Mallaig, 
having had a hundred miles of sailing, half of 
which were spoiled by the enveloping mist. There 
was no mistake about the sun at Mallaig. It 
burned quite tropically, and as our train steamed 
out of the station we had a glorious glimpse of the 
mountains of Rum and the Scaur of Eigg against 
a background of deep blue. 

The journey south by the West Highland Rail- 
way is incomparably the finest in this country. 
That day we travelled under conditions that made 
it sublime. I never saw the mountains look more 



THE LAST DAY 101 

grand. At Fort William we could see the huge 
bulk of Ben Nevis from foot to summit, a sight 
not often seen. At the rear of the great mountain, 
in recesses where the sun did not penetrate for 
long, beautiful patches of snow gleamed with 
dazzling whiteness. Out over the moor at Rannoch 
the wonderful peak of Schiehallion stood like a 
triangle cut out of cardfoard. Every curve of the 
line gave us a fresh view. Christopherson was so 
overcome with the abnormally early rising and the 
strong sea air and the burning heat of the day that 
for the first forty miles of the journey he slumbered 
and slept. I would gladly have followed him into 
the land of dreams, for my eyes felt as if they had 
weights on them; but the panorama held me like 
a spell and I did not succumb. And now the 
evening draws in, and a sunset of extraordinary 
splendour broke from behind the mountains at the 
head of Loch Long, and smouldered on the 
rugged ridge of the Cobbler. Glasgow at last, and 
civilisation : the smell of the Clyde and the clatter 
of the streets assailed our senses: the air of 
Buchanan Street was not so sweet as the breeze on 
the heights of Dalwhinnie. And after Glasgow — 
Paisley ! It sounds like an echo of the line, " And 
after that — the Dark ! " but it were infamy to 
suggest a parallel. Still it was dark when we 
arrived, and we reached our deserted house — 



102 TWO ON A TOUR 

closed for the month — and slept in it with a 
curiously mingled sense of comfort, desolation, and 
— awe. Had we been seen by the police making 
our midnight entry, we might have found explana- 
tion difficult. But it was our haven of rest for the 
night, and we issued forth in the morning without 
being arrested, and parted " in silence and tears." 



EPILOGUE 

'The dog will have his day." 

— Shakespeare: " Hamlet." 



EPILOGUE 

It is a singular and ominous circumstance that all 
the mishaps I have had while cycling have been 
intimately associated with dogs. Christopherson 
says that this is a sure and certain prophecy of my 
future destiny; but I pay no attention to such 
vulgar and gratuitous insinuations. More than 
any man I have reason to understand the apostolic 
injunction to " Beware of dogs." A cyclist has 
many possible sources of annoyance of an animal 
kind. The worst animal he has to contend with is 
the Road Hog, but the dog is a close second. 
The dust, recklessness, reek, and bad manners of 
the one is almost equalled by the pugnacity and 
aggressive wrong-headedness of the other. Fowls 
are bad to meet; they wander aimlessly about, 
seeking what they may devour; and instead of 
getting out of the way at your approach they seem 
to expect a way of escape by fluttering and 
clucking a yard or two ahead of your machine in 
a state of rampant terror. Sheep are very 
objectionable; it almost invariably means a dis- 
mount. Pigs are more negotiable, but cows are 



106 TWO ON A TOUR 

inconceivably distressing. A cow stops and gazes 
at you with hanging head and great mild eyes; 
then she wags her head from side to side in 
provoking uncertainty; then she will drift 
diagonally across the road, and while you are 
making subtle efforts to dodge her erratic move- 
ments she will again drift diagonally to the same 
side as yourself, and present herself sideways to 
your advancing wheel. If you slide past withou(t 
a bump from one of the creature's numerous knobs 
or a switch of her tail you may count yourself 
fortunate: it may be wisest to descend till the 
danger is past. But you are at the mercy of a 
dog; you never know what a dog is going to do. 
It is seized with sudden ideas and possessed of all 
manner of whims and fancies. 

My first accident was in a street not a hundred 
miles from here. A soiled mongrel crossed my 
track in the very centre of the traffic, and before 
I could swerve aside I had gone right over him. 
I fell off, and the brute howled, and a crowd 
gathered ; no injury was sustained on either side ; 
only we both suffered from wounded feelings and 
a certain loss of dignity. Another time I was 
riding with Christopherson at the coast, and two 
dogs rushed suddenly out of a garden gate by the 
road side. My front wheel caught one of them in 
the rear, and I rolled heavily into the dust on my 



EPILOGUE 107 

left shoulder. The dog lifted up his voice in 
protest, and Christopherson, who was leisurely 
trundling along in my wake, hastened to the rescue 
and arrived panting. "Are you hurt?" was his 
first question, for which I was grateful; for that 
was not the first question asked by Scheherezade 
when I related the episode to her. She said, in a 
voice full of imperfectly suppressed emotion, " Did 
you hurt the dog?" And this in spite of the fact 
that Priscilla, with the exaggerated emphasis of 
childhood, had already informed her that " Dad 
had fallen off his bicycle — and run over a dog — 
and Dad had torn all the tops of his fingers off — 
and came in covered with dust — and — and the 
blood was pouring down his hand — and — !!!" 
Let the sympathy of Christopherson be reckoned to 
him for righteousness. He will need it by and by. 
But the worst dog mishap I had was on the road 
to Arisaig. Ah, what a road it was ! Quite the 
worst road I have yet ridden on in Scotland, but it 
runs through Paradise. I would risk life and limb 
there again any time for the sake of the scenery we 
saw that day. When Christopherson and I rode 
over it, the road had evidently not been used for 
many weeks, or possibly months. Grass grew 
green and thick in the centre, and in one place was 
a large tree blown down by a storm right across 
the track, and we had to lift our bicycles over it. 



108 TWO ON A TOUR 

From its appearance it might have lain there for 
years. We had left Prince Charlie's monument at 
the head of lovely Loch Shiel with infinite reluct- 
ance. Christopherson, who is a Cornishman born 
and bred, and a Southron of the Southrons to boot, 
had become so infected with the romance of the 
spot, and was so inoculated with the spirit of 
Prince Charlie, that he began to see imaginary 
warriors coming down over the heights, clad in 
flaming tartans and brandishing claymores. He 
had his notebook on his knee wherein to indite a 
ballad full of " Hoochs " and other guttural 
exclamations indicative of patriotism and daring. 
We mounted the steep and stony road slowly, with 
many a glance behind. It was a mile or two from 
here that misfortune dogged me once more. I was 
ahead of Christopherson, and was descending a 
hill with a surface like a torrent bed, when I 
turned a sharp corner. Instantly a loud barking 
was heard. I looked up and saw a tiny white 
house a few yards back from the road, and a 
woman vainly trying to hold in a wiry Scotch 
terrier by the scruff of the neck. Strangers are so 
few on that road that the dog was vastly excited at 
our unexpected appearance, and as soon as he saw 
me he broke from the woman's hold, dashed across 
the strip of garden in front of the house, made 
straight for my right leg, which was nearest him, 



EPILOGUE 109 

and froze on to my ankle with a set of very- 
excellent teeth. There was a shriek from the 
woman, a shout of dismay from Christopherson, an 
exclamation of woe from myself, and then a yelp 
from the dog as I shook him off and gave him a 
smart parting kick on the nose. I could not stop, 
being in the very middle of a steep descent, but 
rode on to the foot of the hill, where was a clear 
running stream with a small stone bridge over it. 
Here I dismounted, and with some pain pulled off 
my shoe and stocking. The skin was broken where 
the dog's teeth had met through the thick wool of 
the stocking, and my ankle was bruised and 
bloody. I bathed it in the stream, being nearly 
eaten alive by the swarms of midges the while; 
the cool running water cleansed the wound and 
eased the smart, and with Christopherson's aid I 
bound it up with a wet strip torn from a handker- 
chief; I felt sure I should have hydrophobia; but 
Christopherson said I could not be madder than I 
was already, and offered to take me to some 
friendly asylum if he should observe me beginning 
to foam at the mouth. 

Who can describe the rest of that day's ride? 
The road was unspeakably bad, but the magnifi- 
cence of the huge bare mountains crowned with 
toppling crags, and the quiet beauty of calm lochs 
that mirrored them in their clear depths made us 



909293 

no TWO ON A TOUR 

forget all discomfort. I have seldom seen such 
colours as we saw that day, especially as the sun 
dipped toward the west and began to go down in 
a fiery splendour. Heather and bracken were lit 
up with extraordinary brilliance. Had such 
colours been wrought into a picture, one would 
have pronounced them exaggerated, unnatural, 
impossible. But there are no pigments on any 
painter's palate fit to compare with those we saw 
on the road to Arisaig. As we rode slowly along 
the solitary shores of Loch Ailort, the water was 
so permeated with the red sunset glow that it 
looked like a lake of blood. As we drew nearer to 
Arisaig the road led through a dense wood, and 
after sundown it was like midnight in this shaggy 
shade. I had no lamp, but Chris topherson lit his 
and took the lead, and it was strange to see him 
going on ahead like some mysterious fire-fly 
flitting in and out among the thickly-growing trees. 
It was near eleven when we reached our journey's 
end, and we were tired and hungry. But the 
memory of that day's ride will never fade, and 
when I hear folk speak of certain pictures as unreal 
and untrue to Nature, I shall think of the sunset 
flare upon the mountain heather on the road to 
Arisaig, and of the blood-red waters of Loch 
Ailort.